Roku sees surge in streaming; positions itself for Amazon fight

Roku streaming devices are hot. The company reports its customers are streaming almost three hours of content a day.

It’s also seen a 40% year-over-year increase in the amount of active users on its devices during the 4th quarter and, citing preliminary data, said its 27 million active accounts watched 7.3 billion hours of streaming, a 68% surge from a year ago. For the year, it recorded 24 billion streaming hours, a 61% Y/Y jump.

“Strong active account growth and accelerating streaming hours point to consumers’ growing enthusiasm for streaming,” Roku CEO Anthony Wood said.

The Los Gatos-based company also said it and new partner Westinghouse Electronics, which will leverage the Roku TV hardware reference design and Roku OS, will deliver HD Westinghouse Roku TV models in the first half of 2019 with 4K versions arriving later in 2019.

Roku also announced it would be making 8K TVs with long-term hardware partner TCL in China, which also should be available later this year. Roku is developing an 8K hardware reference design that TCL will be the first to license.

Just in time for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which will be available in 8K.

Growing Roku Channel

Roku has had a busy start to the year, also saying it would make more than 25 premium OTT services – including Epix, Showtime and Starz – available on the Roku Channel, which has been around since September 2017, but with few premium choices.

With the addition, users will be able to watch ad-supported and paid premium entertainment in one interface, with personalized recommendations, where they can browse, trial and subscribe to popular services.

Premium subscriptions are only viewable within Roku Channel. The company calls the move a “natural evolution” for the channel.

“By making it easy for users to discover, subscribe to and watch premium subscriptions, we believe this offering will result in increased subscriptions and user engagement for our subscription partners and an even better user experience,” said Rob Holmes, vice president for programming and engagement at Roku.

Also on the near horizon is the ability to watch content from the Roku Channel via the Roku mobile app.

Users with iOS and Android devices will be able to use the Roku mobile app without a Roku device, allowing them to watch from anywhere in the United States. Premium subscriptions will begin rolling out in late January.

The bottom line

Roku has positioned itself to take advantage of the continuing erosion of pay TV. With 1.1. million subs opting out of pay-TV subscriptions in Q4 2018 alone the opportunity Roku has for growth is only getting bigger.

By making more SVOD content available – including on mobile devices without the need for a Roku device – Roku is much better positioned to compete with Amazon as a “menu” for a la carte TV.

The additional 4K and 8K TV deals? Just more pathways to the OTT mothership.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn